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Monday, October 11, 2004

A Closer Look at Egypt

by Rachel Neuwirth

Administration officials, and some in the media, may refer to certain Arab countries as "our friends" or "our allies." That designation is applied to those Arab countries that receive American support, both military and economic. Such recipients include the Arab Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. With so much attention understandably focused on Iraq, we should not lose sight of the conduct of Egypt, the most populous and most powerful of all the Arab countries. Egypt receives $2.2 billion in American aid each year, and is supposed to be our friend and ally.

For much of the Cold War period, Egypt, along with Syria, was a Soviet client. In 1967, and again in 1973, Egypt attacked Israel with Soviet-supplied weapons. After the start of the 1973 Yom Kippur attack, on Judaism's holiest day, a badly wounded Israel finally turned the tide and was on the verge of victory. But President Nixon intervened to rescue Egypt from an ignominious defeat, by demanding that Israel halt its advance and allow the surrounded Egyptian army to be secured and re-supplied. If Israel refused, Nixon was prepared to confront Israel with stronger measures.

In 1978, Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel and with the US as a participating third party. Egypt then recovered all of the Sinai, which it had used to launch three prior wars against Israel, including its 1948 war in violation of the United Nations Partition Plan, which had been accepted by Israel. Following the peace treaty, they got back every inch of the Sinai, plus a momentous gift of air fields, roads and oil wells, all developed by Israel during the previous ten years, plus billions in American economic and military aid.

American business was also encouraged to support various development projects in Egypt that would create jobs for their growing population. Egypt launched a war of aggression, lost the war, was rescued by America, signed a peace agreement that it is free to violate, and then received back all of the Sinai plus billions in US taxpayer aid. Who says 'crime doesn't pay'?

In return for these huge rewards, Egypt committed to implement its peace treaty with Israel and to normalize relations. Egypt never fulfilled its commitments. It blocked Egyptians from visiting Israel, limited trade, blocked cultural exchanges and maintained extreme anti-Israel and anti-Jewish propaganda in the government-controlled media. A few years ago, Egypt withdrew its ambassador to Israel in yet another violation of its peace treaty. Egypt's Hosni Mubarak has refused to visit Israel (except for the funeral of Yitzchak Rabin in 1995).

Following the 1991 Gulf War, Egypt was forgiven $7 billion of its debt to America in return for their alleged help. We know that NATO allies sent many troops and other countries gave substantial support, but it is hard to discern exactly how much 'help' we actually received from Egypt. After receiving that $7 billion gift, there was still no improvement in Egypt's honoring of its peace treaty with Israel. As American military and economic aid continued to flow, Egypt continued its long-term military buildup, including the import of missiles from North Korea. Over the years, Egypt has received over 50 billion dollars in US aid.

In return for massive American aid, is Egypt helping us to promote peace and stability in the region? Is it ready to help us fight terrorists and to stand with us in Iraq? Or is it pursuing its own destructive agenda of waging low-level warfare against our Israeli ally? Yes, we do hear State Department pronouncements lauding Egyptian 'cooperation' in the region and we even see confused leftist Israeli politicians making an occasional pilgrimage to confer with Hosni Mubarak. But there is a big difference between diplomatic atmospherics and true substance.

Let's take a closer look at some substance. As we look around for urgently needed support troops from our friends, it is good to realize that Egypt knows very well how to fight - especially when going to war against Israel. They also knew how to gas the people in Yemen in the 1960s under Gamal Nasser, years before Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurds. They are full of fighting spirit when openly training for their next war against Israel, and while indoctrinating their populace to hate Israel and even their American benefactors.

As a recent example, Dr. Rif'at Sayyed Ahmad, director of the Jaffa Research Center in Cairo and columnist for Al-Liwaa Al-Islami, one of Egypt's state-controlled newspapers, published a two-part article, "The Lie About the Burning of the Jews", which claims the Holocaust is a Jewish invention.

In addition, no item is too trivial or too petty for Egypt when it comes to hatred of Israel. After pop star Madonna (now calling herself Esther, as a devotee of Kabbalah) completed her spiritual, non-political, visit to Israel, the Cairo regime ordered its embassies around the world to deny Madonna any request for a visa to visit Egypt.

This pathological hatred extends to Egyptian opposition to the normalizing of contacts, even 25 years after the peace treaty. Egyptians who want to visit Israel risk punishment by their government. A recent popular song had the endearing title of "I Hate Israel". And in recent years, Hitler's Mein Kampf was an Egyptian best-seller in Arabic translation.

Israeli Army Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen.Moshe Ya'alon, said (Jerusalem Post, Aug. 25, 2004) that Egypt is "facilitating arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip... allowing the Palestinians to continue smuggling arms from Sinai into Gaza despite Israeli protests." He said, "Egypt knew exactly which arms were being smuggled, and could halt the smuggling of rocket-propelled grenades into Gaza." Israeli cabinet minister Natan Sharansky said on the Anne Coulter Radio Show of May 19, 2004, that "90% of the weapons in Gaza came through the tunnels from Egypt."

Recently, nine US Senators (Brownback, Wyden, Talent, Johnson, Santorum, Dorgan, Inhofe, Inouye and Ensign) have already started a Congressional effort urging President George Bush to "convey to Egypt in the strongest possible terms that it has an obligation to put a stop to weapons smuggling that originates from within its borders by shutting down the Egyptian side of the tunnel network." When Israel is forced to respond to the smuggling and to the attacks on its civilians from those smuggled weapons, the Administration can readily find it voice to admonish Israel to restrain itself. But where is the Administration's voice to admonish Egypt for its criminal actions?

McLaughlin and Associates conducted a poll about Egypt July 14-15, 2004 on a scientifically selected sample of 1,000 Americans. The question was: "Do you think Egypt is a reliable and trustworthy ally of America in the war against terrorism?" 50.1% said "no" and only 22.5% said "yes". The rest had no opinion. Even though the public may not know the full extent of Egyptian misconduct, most Americans still understand that Egypt is not our friend and ally, despite the continuing flow of taxpayer billions.

Egypt today is a nation of some 70 million people, with a huge standing army of about 440,000, plus reserves. After the 1978 peace agreement with Israel, Egypt embarked on a decades-long program of military buildup - this time with the top-of-the-line American weapons. They are building their army and equipment to match and even to surpass Israeli capabilities, thanks to US aid. Their training exercises are all aimed at fighting a future war against Israel. Their populace and military remain indoctrinated with extreme hatred against Israel and against Jews.

Suppose Israel came under coordinated attack from Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas and Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority - comprising a major threat. Then what would prevent Egypt from seizing the opportunity to join in that war? In 1967, Jordan attacked Israel with US-supplied tanks in violation of US assurances that they were only for defense. Jordan was not punished, but rather received replacements from America for those tanks lost to Israel. In like manner, there is no US guarantee that Egypt would refrain from an unprovoked attack, and Egypt's own experience suggests that there would be no tangible US opposition and that Israel would be on her own. Our ongoing arming of Egypt, to the point where it can seriously threaten Israel, while it remains hostile and in gross violation of its peace treaty, needs some explanation.

In our war in Iraq, we look to our friends and allies to help share our heavy military burden. Except for Great Britain, and modest help from Italy and Poland, NATO has not responded as it should, while the UN offers mostly advice. What excuse is there for Arab Egypt to remain on the sidelines, after having received tens of billions of dollars in American aid? To ask the question is also to answer it. The Bush Administration has not demanded that Egypt meet its responsibility to help us out with a sizeable contingent, or else let them forgo our $2.2 billion in annual aid.

It is reasonable to ask why they should volunteer to do anything, if they can do nothing and still receive full US aid. America is a direct participant in the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, including obligations to ensure compliance of the parties. There are supposed to be hundreds of American personnel in the Sinai to monitor the separation of forces and adherence to the terms of the peace treaty. Why aren't they monitoring the smuggling of weapons through those tunnels? The US is aggressively monitoring, via satellite and ground inspectors, whenever Israel builds any homes for Jews to live peacefully in certain parts of the historic land of Israel that are claimed by Arabs.

Egypt is being armed by America far in excess of its legitimate defense needs and toward a growing offensive capability. Israel must now divert more of its limited resources to defending yet another border against a huge and powerful enemy. Israel is a country of only 5.5 million Jews, and they must defend against other implacable enemies in the region, totaling many times their size, and with some (Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and not counting the Arab Gulf states) being armed with US-supplied weapons.

Another reason Egypt prefers not to help America is that Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian dictator, might feel threatened by the emergence of a free and democratic Iraq in the region. It might give ideas to his own oppressed and exploited masses. He is busy grooming his son to become the next dictator over Egypt. And he won his last 'election' by some 99% of the vote. Of course, he was the only candidate running. So, thanks to American indulgence, he is free to threaten Israel, arm the Palestinian terrorists and in general, undermine US attempts to democratize the Middle East.

If the Bush Administration were serious in fighting terror, then it would advise Egypt to promptly send troops to Iraq to face the terrorists and relieve our own troops, or else forgo our billions in aid. Egypt has a very good army because we armed it and helped to train it. Our failure to demand Egyptian help is a signal to other countries that American foreign policy can be easily manipulated to foreign advantage. And it shows that it is easy to betray America and still receive American aid.

The bottom line is that American policy is contradictory, self-defeating and dangerous to our Israeli ally, and it makes us look bumbling and inept to the world. President Bush's announced goal to fight terrorism and to democratize the Middle East is contradicted by his inconsistent Egyptian policy. He exposes our own troops to high casualties and ongoing attrition, while a huge Egyptian army, armed and trained by us, sits nearby in safety and contributes nothing. Our opponents among the Arabs, Europeans, Chinese and others must be smirking with amusement and pleasure as they watch the world's only superpower thrashing around in such abysmal confusion.